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Man Killed at Paris Airport Had Been Flagged for Possible Radical Ties

ORLY, FRANCE: French soldiers shot and killed a man who wrestled another soldier to the ground and tried to take her rifle Saturday at Paris’ Orly Airport. The melee forced the airport’s busy terminals to close and trapped hundreds of passengers aboard flights that had just landed.

The 39-year-old Frenchman, who authorities said had a long criminal record and was previously flagged for possible radicalism, had earlier fired birdshot at police officers during an early morning traffic stop before speeding away and heading for the airport south of Paris.

There, in the public area of its South Terminal, the man wrestled the soldier who was on foot patrol and tried to snatch away her rifle, authorities said. The French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the patrol’s other two members opened fire. Le Drian said the soldier managed to keep hold of her weapon.

“Her two comrades thought it was necessary — and they were right — to open fire to protect her and especially to protect all the people who were around,” Le Drian said.

The shooting further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.

Witnesses described panicked bystanders fleeing, flights halting, traffic chaos and planes under lockdowns. French authorities, however, emphasized that security planning — reinforced across the country in the wake of repeated attacks — worked well.

The soldier was “psychologically shocked” but unhurt by the “rapid and violent” assault, said Col. Benoit Brulon, a spokesman for the military force that patrols public sites in France. No other injuries were reported.

“We’d already registered our bags when we saw a soldier pointing his gun at the attacker who was holding another soldier hostage,” said traveler Pascal Menniti, who was flying to the Dominican Republic.

Authorities said at least 3,000 people were evacuated from the airport. Hundreds of passengers also were confined for several hours aboard 13 flights that were held in landing areas, and 15 other flights were diverted to Paris’ other main airport, Charles de Gaulle, the Paris airport authority said.

A French official connected to the investigation confirmed French media reports that identified the attacker as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, born in France in 1978. The official spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the man’s details.

The attacker’s motives were unknown. After the airport attack, his father and brother were detained by police for questioning Saturday — standard operating procedure in such probes.

The antiterrorism section of the Paris prosecutor’s office immediately took over the investigation. The prosecutor’s office said the attacker had a record of robbery and drug offenses.

He did not appear in a French government database of people considered potential threats to national security. But prosecutors said he had already crossed authorities’ radar for suspected Islamic extremism. His house was among scores searched in November 2015 in the immediate aftermath of suicide bomb-and-gun attacks that killed 130 people in Paris. Those searches targeted people with suspected radical leanings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sacré Bleu! France Aims To Enshrine Emergency Anti-Terror Law In Constitution

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President Francois Hollande called for the emergency powers to be protected from litigation by placing them in the constitution.

(AFP) – The French cabinet backed reform proposals Wednesday that could see the state of emergency called after last month’s Paris attacks enshrined in the constitution.

“The threat has never been higher. We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam.”

— Prime Minister Manuel Valls

Special policing powers used under the state of emergency — such as house arrests and the right to raid houses without judicial oversight — are currently based on an ordinary law which can be challenged at the constitutional court.

In the wake of the Paris attacks that left 130 dead, President Francois Hollande called for the emergency powers to be protected from litigation by placing them in the constitution.

“The threat has never been higher,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters following a meeting of government ministers on Wednesday.

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“We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam,” he said.

The constitutional reforms must now be passed by a three-fifths majority in the upper and lower houses of parliament, where debates will start on February 3.

Valls said the latest figures showed more than 1,000 people had left France to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq, of which an estimated 148 had died and 250 returned.

“Radicalised individuals from numerous countries join Daesh (the Arab acronym for the Islamic State group). There are many French speakers and we know that fighters group themselves according to language, to train and prepare terrorist actions on our soil,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


‘New Cult of Stalin’: Soviet Nostalgia, Stalin Portraits in Ukraine’s Rebel Regions 

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The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – Nicolas Miletitch reports: Three portraits of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin are on display in the centre of Donetsk, the rebel capital of eastern Ukraine, as the separatist authorities fuel a mood of Soviet nostalgia.

“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services.”

The portraits, adorning a main square, seem to go down well with one young woman walking past.

“I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed,” said Yekaterina, a 22-year-old student.

The previously taboo display comes as the rebels revive Soviet customs to cement their Moscow-backed rule — while glossing over Stalin’s atrocities.

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“I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed.”

The Stalin portraits feature a quote from the wartime leader: “Our cause is just. The enemy will be routed. We will claim victory.”

The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.

The Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told AFP how he regretted the break-up of the Soviet Union.

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“Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.”

“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services,” said the 39-year-old former field commander who prefers to dress in camouflage gear.

“Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us.”

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New cult of Stalin 

Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.

The Donetsk rebels’ deputy defence minister Eduard Basurin wears a badge with Stalin’s profile on his uniform.

This new cult of Stalin revives the memories in Donetsk, a coal-mining city that was formerly known as Stalino.

It was renamed in the early 1960s after Nikita Khrushchev, who emerged as Soviet leader in the power struggle that followed Stalin’s death, condemned his predecessor’s cult of personality. Read the rest of this entry »


The Truth Behind the French Resistance Myth

Nicholas Shakespeare welcomes a sweeping account of the French Resistance that gives credit to those previously overlooked by de Gaulle

Thirstily swallowed by a humiliated France, the dominant narrative of the French Resistance was cooked up by General de Gaulle – “Joan of Arc in trousers”, Churchill testily called him – when he addressed the crowds outside the Hôtel de Ville on August 25, 1944. “Paris liberated! Liberated by its own efforts, liberated by its people with the help of the armies of France, with the help of all of France.”

Yet, as Robert Gildea exposes in this comprehensive survey of the French Resistance, the myth that the French freed themselves is largely poppycock, like de Gaulle’s boast that only “a handful of scoundrels” behaved badly under four years of Nazi occupation. (One example: by October 1943, 85,000 French women had children fathered by Germans.) Most of the population didn’t engage with their revolutionary past until the last moment, when the chief thing they recaptured was their pride. The first French soldier into Paris was part of a 51ws6oAhkmL._SL250_regiment “called ‘la Nueve’ because it was composed mainly of Spanish republicans”.

[Order Robert Gildea‘s book “Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance” from Amazon.com]

The magnitude of the French defeat in June 1940, after a mere six weeks, compelled the writer Vercors (Jean Bruller), author of that celebrated novella of passive resistance, The Silence of the Sea, to predict that the Germans might stay on in France for a century. This being a very real possibility, it is not hard to see why the Resistance, in Gildea’s estimation, “mobilised only a minority of French people. The vast majority learnt to muddle through under German Occupation and long admired Marshal Pétain.” Attentisme – “wait and see” – was the most obeyed order of the day. It took until 1971 for a counter-narrative to surface, in the documentary Le Chagrin et la Pitié, which suggested that the French, instead of behaving honourably under the Occupation, “had been supine, cowardly, and only too frequently given to collaboration”.

[Read the full review here, at The Telegraph]

It bears repeating that an astonishing one and a half million French soldiers remained POWs in Germany until 1945, putting pressure on political activists back home, notably communists, to form the opposition. But French Communist Party bosses, answerable to Moscow, “always fighters-in-shadows-cover-smallcontrolled an agenda that had little to do with the Resistance”. One contemporary observer sneered: “The PCF led its resisters to the Rubicon – to go fishing.”

Neutralised for the first two years of the war by the Nazi-Soviet pact, which made Hitler their ally, the French communists were led by Jacques Duclos, “who lived a quiet life disguised as a ‘country doctor, 1900 style’ ”. Meanwhile, their general secretary, Georges Marchais, worked in a German factory as a volunteer. Hardly models of heroism.

Not until Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941 did a more convincing resistance emerge, gaining pace with the Relève of June 1942, in which Vichy’s chain-smoking Prime Minister, Pierre Laval, promised the release of one French POW for every three volunteers to work in Germany; the following February, the Service du Travail Obligatoire turned this into a compulsory order, directed at all men of military age. The result: up to 40,000 young men – the Resistance was 80 per cent composed of those under 30 – joined the maquis rather than go to Germany (although 650,000 did end up going). But as Gildea points out, the maquis were beset by problems – lack of weapons, training and leadership – which led to a succession of disastrous setbacks and reprisals. Read the rest of this entry »


Whiskey Content Not Disclosed: A Vial of Winston Churchill’s Blood Now Up for Auction

Churchill In Croydon

…Churchill famously said he had nothing to offer but “blood, toil, tears and sweat” and now some of that blood is to be auctioned off to the highest bidder by Duke’s Auctioneers on March 12.

“…the most poignant and unique memorabilia we’ve ever had…the closest you can get to Churchill.”

— Timothy Medhurst, an auctioneer and appraiser at Duke’s

The blood was collected when Churchill was in the hospital for a fractured hip in 1962. Typically vials of blood are discarded when they are no longer medically 51hrU8b98BL._SL250_necessary, but the nurse who collected it, an apparent fan of the former Prime Minister, received special permission to keep the vial.

[Or, you can order this Churchill book “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Great Speeches” from Amazon]

Upon the nurse’s death, it was bequeathed to a friend who decided to sell the historical medical waste to mark the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death. Read the rest of this entry »


Theodore Dalrymple: Tyranny of the Minority

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There is more to fear in one terrorist than to celebrate in 99 well-adjusted immigrants.

Theodore Dalrymple writes: The shots in the Paris street that were seen and heard around the world killed Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim policeman going to the defense of Charlie Hebdo: a reminder that by no means all Muslims in France, far from it, are France-hating, Allahu-akbar-shouting fanatics, and that many are well-integrated.

“A handful of fanatics can easily have a much more significant social effect than a large number of peaceful citizens…if only 1 percent of French Muslims were inclined to terrorism, this would still be more than 50,000 people, more than enough to create havoc in a society.”

I go to a Muslim boulanger in Paris whose French bread and pastries are as good as any in the vicinity; and, if anything, I have a prejudice in favor of patronizing his shop precisely to encourage and reward his successful integration. And he is only one of many cases that I know.

Illustration by Barry Blitt

Illustration by Barry Blitt

Unfortunately, this is not as reassuring as it sounds, because a handful of fanatics can easily have a much more significant social effect than a large number of peaceful citizens. There is more to fear in one terrorist than to celebrate in 99 well-integrated immigrants. And if only 1 percent of French Muslims were inclined to terrorism, this would still be more than 50,000 people, more than enough to create havoc in a society.

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The jihadists now have a large pool from which to draw, and there are good reasons to think that more than 1 percent of young Muslims in France are distinctly anti-French. The number of young French jihadists fighting in Syria is estimated to be 1,200, equal to 1 percent in numbers of the French army, and probably not many fewer than the number of Algerian guerrillas fighting during much of the Algerian War of Independence.

That is why the following argument, taken from an article in the Guardian by French journalist Nabila Ramdani, will not be of much comfort to the French or to other Europeans. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] CNN’s Jake Tapper Hammers President Obama: French President Jacques Chirac Was First to Visit U.S. After 9/11

“I think that there was something more about this than just optics. This is being referred to here in France as France’s 9/11.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper was one of the first pundits to highlight President Barack Obama’s absence from yesterday’s major rally in Paris and his criticism continued today after White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest admitted someone of a “higher level” should have attended the event.

“Who was the first worlder to come to the United States after that awful trauma, who was it? Well, it was the president of France, it was Jacques Chirac. He came to Washington, D.C. and New York right after 9/11, within a week and a half or so. I don’t think that’s a mistake. We have a special relationship with this country.”

“I think that there was something more about this than just optics,” Tapper told Wolf Blitzer from Paris Monday afternoon. “This is being referred to here in France as France’s 9/11.”

Looking back at 9/11, an attack he admitted was clearly on a much larger scale than what happened at the Charlie Hebdo offices last week, Tapper said, “you have to look at the fact of, who was the first worlder to come to the United States after that awful trauma, who was it?”

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 “…It’s obviously not shaken by the fact that President Obama wasn’t there or Joe Biden wasn’t there or Mitch McConnell or John Boehner or any other American leader. But it would reaffirmed it in the minds of not just the French people but the American people.”

“Well, it was the president of France, it was Jacques Chirac,” he said, answering his own question. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Paris is forgetting Ernest Hemingway

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American writer Ernest Hemingway had close links with Paris. He first lived there in 1920 and played a marginal, much-mythologised, role in the 1944 liberation of the city. But now, 70 years on, memories of the author are starting to fade.

Hugh Schofield BBC News, Paris: Twenty years ago when I first started reporting from Paris, a story on Hemingway would have been so corny that you would have got short shrift from any editor hemingway-book-feasthad you ever had the gall to suggest it.

[Order “A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition” and other books by Ernest Hemingway at Amazon.com]

Paris was full of Hemingway wannabes – young people just out of university sitting dreamily in cafes and struggling to get their prose more muscular.

There were guided tours round the sites – his homes on the Left Bank and the Shakespeare and Company bookshop.

No self-respecting acolyte would be seen on the street without a copy of Hemingway’s magisterial memoir of Paris in the 1920s, published posthumously under the title “A Moveable Feast”.

Crowds gathered to cheer French General Charles de Gaulle, 26 August 1944

Crowds gathered to cheer French General Charles de Gaulle, 26 August 1944

The commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris from the Germans brought it all back, because August 1944 was in fact one of the most celebrated episodes in the Hemingway legend.

“I’ve seen you beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for… you belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

Already famous for his books, he was working as a correspondent attached to the American 5th Infantry Division, which was south-west of Paris in the town of Rambouillet.

“This is the kind of stuff that used to set young writerly hearts racing.”

Here, in flagrant breach of the Geneva Conventions governing war reporting, Hemingway set up as a kind of mini warlord. His hotel room was full of grenades and uniforms, and he had command of a band of Free French fighters who reconnoitred the approach to Paris and provided information to the Allied armies. Read the rest of this entry »


Doux Liberté: Paris Celebrates Liberation from Nazi Occupation 70 Years Later

26 Aug 1944: French civilians line the streets to welcome General Charles De Gaulle to liberated Par

“Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself. Liberated by its people.”

— Charles De Gaulle’s famous speech at City Hall

President Francois Hollande led tributes to the French Resistance on Monday, as Paris celebrated the 70th anniversary of its joyful liberation after four long and bitter years of Nazi occupation in World War II. Soaked by a torrential downpour on the Ile de Sein off northwestern France, Hollande hailed the bravery of the tiny island’s population, who refused to accept their 70th-Anniversary-France-Liberationcountry’s occupation and fled to Britain to join the fight for France’s liberation.

“A tiny parcel of land in the ocean, the Ile de Sein was in the vanguard, an example, an illustration of French patriotism.”

— President Francois Hollande

“The message from Ile de Sein is that there is no danger, no difficulty we cannot overcome as long as the will is there, as long as people gather together,” said Hollande, who made no reference to his own political difficulties only hours after his prime minister handed in his government’s resignation.

Hollande’s speech on the island kicked off a day of celebrations that will climax with Parisians marking their city’s liberation just as their parents and grandparents did seven decades ago — with a gala dance at City Hall.

There will also be an altogether more modern twist to the ball later Monday, with a sound and light show and huge projections of previously unseen photos on the facade of the imposing building in central Paris. Read the rest of this entry »